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Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has reiterated his call for a Common Travel Area for pets as they travel within the UK – urging Westminster and the European Union to adopt a pragmatic and sensible approach, which retains pet welfare at its heart.

After engaging with his officials to find potential flexibilities for pet checks, the Minister can now confirm that they will extend the education phase from 01 February 2021 to 01 July 2021, to allow pet owners time to adjust to the new regulations.

Minister Poots said: The documentary checks and veterinary treatments being imposed by the EU on internal movements of pets within the UK are absolutely needless and unnecessary. Pet owners have also had very little time to prepare to meet the new requirements. Therefore, after working with my officials over the past number of weeks to seek potential flexibilities, I can confirm that they will extend the current education phase to 1 July, to allow pet owners time to familiarise themselves with the new rules. Routine checks will not commence until then.

“While my officials will use this time to undertake an awareness campaign, the aim of which will be to educate the public travelling with pets on the new documentary and health requirements, I will be continuing urgent engagement on this issue with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), George Eustice MP; Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM), Charlie McConalogue, and the European Commission.

“There is no need for pets to receive a vaccine for a disease we do not have and, in particular, to receive a veterinary medicine to guard against a tapeworm that does not exist in the UK or Ireland. There is simply no threat to the EU single market, animal health or public health, by allowing pets the ability to move freely between GB and NI.

“I have already asked for the introduction a Common Travel Area for pets across GB and NI, and ROI – it’s clearly the most logical approach - and would lessen the real and serious concerns of pet travellers across all jurisdictions. During my recent discussions I have been encouraged that both Defra and DAFM recognise the severity of these new regulations, and have agreed to continue with engagement in the hope of pursing potential easements. I will be pressing for them to continue this work alongside DAERA, to identify ways to ease these measures, and remove the unnecessary barriers to travel for pet owners, especially those with assistance dogs. To this end, I am pleased that a working group has recently been established between the Cabinet Office and The Department of the Taoiseach, in order to determine how best to mitigate against the effects of these needless additional requirements.”

The current EU Regulations entail that, following the end of the transition period, pet owners must meet a number of new requirements when entering NI from GB including a rabies vaccination and additional documentary obligations. These new rules also include the need to ensure that their animals have had a tapeworm treatment which was previously unnecessary given the tapeworm free status of the UK and the ROI. For more information on pet travel visit the DAERA website.